Air quality, odour, health and equity: Leveraging interdisciplinary approaches to understand the impacts of cannabis cultivation in Metro Vancouver

Date: November 10, 2021 4:00 pm (ET)


  • Naomi Zimmermann
    University of British Columbia
Naomi Zimmerman


Dr. Naomi Zimmerman is an Assistant Professor in the Dept. of Mechanical Engineering at the University of British Columbia and Canada Research Chair in Sustainability. Prior to joining UBC she was a postdoctoral fellow at the Center for Atmospheric Particle Studies at Carnegie Mellon University and also holds a Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Toronto. Her research focuses on the measurement of air pollutants in complex environments to better understand the health and climate impacts of new technologies and policies, with a focus on the transportation and energy sectors. Dr. Zimmerman is also the lead investigator of the CFI-BCKDF funded Rapid Air Improvement Network (RAIN). RAIN’s mission is to use multidimensional instrument data to identify and develop engineering and policy interventions that can be more quickly validated with new measurements.  RAIN’s team from engineering, atmospheric sciences, health, and policy combined with external collaborators, aims to accelerate the changes needed to improve air quality and climate.


In 2018, Canada became the only G7 nation to legalize cannabis for non-medical (recreational or non-prescribed uses) and medical use at the federal level. To date, there are over 200 facilities with licenses to cultivate cannabis. Of these, more than 20% are located in British Columbia, with some of the largest cultivation greenhouses being located or developed in the Metro Vancouver region. As the number and size of cannabis cultivation facilities (CCFs) have grown, so have odour-related complaints; a report from March 2019 listed 326 complaints in Metro Vancouver over a 12-month period. The odours associated with CCFs are caused by emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which can also increase the formation of health-damaging pollutants such as ground-level ozone (O3) and particulate matter (PM). As such, air quality regulators have begun exploring options to curb these emissions. In this talk, I will highlight ongoing work in the Metro Vancouver region to understand CCF emissions from an interdisciplinary lens. This includes the development and deployment of a citizen science web application for reporting CCF odours and observed health effects, modelling of odourous emissions and their dispersion, and plans for real-world ambient sampling of emissions from CCFs using mobile monitoring. The talk will also provide a high-level summary of identified knowledge gaps in our understanding of the air quality impacts of CCF facilities from the occupational to community scale.